United States – President Joe Biden announced that the United States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow for greater exchange of defense capabilities, including helping to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. .
Biden made the announcement along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined him via video to reveal the new alliance, which will be called AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us). All three announced that they would quickly turn their attention to developing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
None of the leaders mentioned China in their comments. But the new security alliance is likely to be seen as a provocative move by Beijing, which has repeatedly lashed out at Biden as he sought to refocus US foreign policy on the Pacific early in his presidency.
Before the announcement, a senior administration official wanted to downplay the idea that the alliance was meant to deter China in the region. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the announcement, said the creation of the alliance was not directed at any country and is a major effort to maintain engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific by part of the three nations.
Johnson said the alliance would allow the three English-speaking maritime democracies to strengthen their ties and sharpen their focus on an increasingly difficult part of the world.
The three countries agreed to share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber defense capabilities and submarine.
But plans to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines are sure to get Beijing’s attention. To date, the only country with which the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology is Great Britain. Morrison said Australia is not looking to develop a nuclear weapons program and that the information exchange would be limited to helping it develop a fleet of submarines.
The Australian prime minister said plans for the nuclear-powered submarines will be developed over the next 18 months and that the ships will be built in Adelaide, Australia.
Australia had announced in 2016 that the French company DCNS had beaten bidders from Japan and Germany to build the next generation of submarines in Australia’s largest defense contract.
Senior French officials made it clear that they were unhappy with the deal, which undermines the DCNS deal.
“The American decision to exclude a European ally and partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we face unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only notice and regret, ”said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly, in a joint statement.
Morrison said the three countries “had always seen through a similar lens,” but, as the world becomes more complex, “to meet these new challenges, to help provide the security and stability that our region needs. , now we must take our association to a new level. “
Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, said that equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines was an important step that would help the United States and its allies on the military and diplomatic fronts.
Submarine warfare capabilities have been Beijing’s “Achilles heel,” Pottinger said. A fleet of nuclear-powered submarines would allow Australia to conduct longer patrols, giving the new alliance a stronger presence in the region.
“When you have a strong military, it provides a deterrent backdrop that gives countries the confidence to resist harassment,” said Pottinger, who is now a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “Part of the problem at the moment is that Beijing has become quite arrogant and has been less willing to participate productively in diplomacy.”
The United States and Australia, along with India and Japan, are members of a strategic dialogue known as “the Quad.” Biden is scheduled to host other Quad leaders at the White House next week.
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